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Theology > Salvation > Work of Salvation > Jesus is the Savior


You shall call His name Jesus
for He will save His people from their sins.
Matt. 1:21

The angel spoke to Joseph regarding the child that Mary was carrying and said to him: “You shall call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21; evidently Joseph knew the sex of Jesus before He was born, for the angel spoke with the masculine pronoun; he also was given the name for the child). Etymologically, the name “Jesus” means “Salvation is of the Lord,” “Yahweh Saves,” or “Yahweh is Salvation.” If there are no other affirmations, just the name informs us that Jesus is the Savior.

The Greek word for Savior is sōtēr and is used 24 times in the Greek text; in the NKJV sōtēr is translated as “Savior” 24 times. The word is used of both Jesus and God: God is the Savior and Jesus is the Savior. So the point is communicated that Jesus is God—the Savior of man is the God-Man.

God is called Savior:

my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior (Lu. 1:48);

God our Savior (I Tim. 1:1; 2:3);

the living God, who is the Savior of all men (I Tim. 4:10);

the commandment of God our Savior (Tit. 1:3);

(See: Tit. 2:10; 3:4; II Pet. 1:1; Jude 25; in the OT God is also spoken of as Savior: II Sam. 22:3; Ps. 106:21; Isa. 43:3, 11; 45:15; Jer. 14:8; Hos. 13:4).

Jesus the Christ is called Savior:

there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Lu. 2:11);

this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world (Jo. 4:42);

Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior (Acts 5:31);

Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body (Eph. 5:23);

the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ (II Tim. 1:10);

(See: Acts 13:23; Phil. 3:20; Tit. 1:4; 3:6; II Pet. 1:1; 2:20; 3:20; I Jo. 4:14).

Writing to Titus and speaking of Jesus Christ the apostle Paul uses both the words “Savior” and “God”: “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). Similarly in Tit. 3:4 we find reference to “the love of God our Savior,” and in Tit. 3:6 there is reference to “Jesus Christ our Savior”; since the references are so close they must be identical. In regard to the believer, both God and Jesus are “our Savior.” Additionally in II Pet. 1:1 in the NKJV we find: “the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”; and in II Pet. 2:20, 3:2, and 3:18 Jesus is referred to as “Lord” (the OT word for God) and “Savior.” In connection with Him being “Savior,” Christ is identified as being “God.” Repeatedly in the Scriptures Jesus is called both “God” and “Savior.”

What is involved in Christ being the Savior? What must be the characteristics of the Savior? How is the concept of Savior to be understood? Without claiming exhaustiveness, three points should be made.

One, the Savior must be able to save. The affirmation of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is able to save, and that He, and He alone, is the Savior because He and He alone is able to save. He is able to save because He is not a man who is beset by sin, even though He is man; He is God and, therefore, is set apart from sin. Because of who He is He is able to save.

Sin is opposed to God; it is a contradiction of the very essence of God. But if there is no God, then there is no sin; for sin must be critiqued in terms of God. Since God is, sin is exposed and must be dealt with—it cannot be the victor. Sin cannot establish itself in an autonomous existence over against the thrice holy God. Nothing that is contrary to God can triumph.

Sin necessities judgment and punishment; it must be condemned and its strength broken; its ability to damn must be taken away; and its eternal consequences must be terminated. Only God can accomplish this task; it is His work. The Savior must be able to save, and the Lord Jesus Christ is capable.

Two, the Savior must be willing to save. Paul affirms that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Tim. 1:1). This is the reason for the Incarnation, the life, the death, burial,  and resurrection, and the ascension of Christ. Jesus Himself declares: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lu. 19:10), and He says: “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself . . .” (Jo. 10:17-18).

In the purpose of His coming and in the determination of His coming, there is His willingness to come and to redeem. Willingly the Son left the glory He shared with the Father, coming to earth, humbling Himself and becoming a Servant, in order that He might save sinful man.

Three, the Savior must save. “Must save” means that Jesus actually saves. He does not reject; He does not ignore; He does not refuse; He does not merely establish a possibility. In fact, He does save. To Nicodemus Jesus spoke with certainty of His salvation: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jo. 3:14-15). By coming and being lifted up—His death on the cross—Jesus purchased salvation; therefore, He does save and the one who believes is saved. Christ saves by who He is, what He did, and what He does—only He can save. Jesus affirms His work:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep (Jo. 10:11);

I lay down My life for the sheep (Jo. 10:15);

I give them eternal life (Jo. 10:28).

To those who come to Him He gives eternal life, that is, He saves. Assurance of this was given by Jesus to the woman at the Jacob’s well: “The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into eternal life” (Jo. 4:14). At Capernaum Jesus said to the people: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Jo. 6:37), meaning that He will save and keep saved.

The Savior saves; to Timothy Paul speaks of “the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ” (II Tim. 1:10). Christ does not merely have the capacity to save; He is affirmed by Paul to be “our Savior.” The word “Savior” can be ascribed only to the One who saves, and the Savior of man, the One who saves man from his sin is Jesus.

He saves by becoming man’s salvation; salvation is not something one gets but Someone one trusts. This is to affirm that salvation is not an abstract concept but a personal relationship, a relationship with the Savior.

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